Its been almost 4 weeks since we got home from Plum Village. There’s a saying in this tradition Go As a River and transitioning back into daily life after being on retreat for 21-days felt very much like this. When I first came across this saying it rubbed me the wrong way and I misunderstood its teaching. I took it to mean that we had to go with the collective flow and not question things or stand out from the crowd but I see it differently now. Go As a River means to be with life in all of its meanderings, embracing joys and difficulties along the way.
The morning after we got home cloudless blue June skies shone brightly on 3 weeks worth of mail piled on the kitchen table, an answering machine wildly blinking non-stop, backpacks filled to the brim with dirty clothes and Plum Village treasures, cats starving for attention and 200 unanswered emails. And something was different. My friend and dharma teacher Rowan asked me just today, “do you know how to tell when the practice is working?” I answered that yes I thought I did know and then proceeded to ask whether there was a trick. He said, “you know the practice is working when you have a different response to something then you had before.” And I did. Instead of getting stressed out when integrating back home from a big trip, hurriedly unpacking as soon as possible, running around multitasking to an Olympic sport level I said to myself, “this will all get done in time.” All weekend I didn’t unpack (OK maybe I unpacked a little bit), I didn’t open the mail, I didn’t listen to the answering machine or get carried away cleaning, I wasn’t stressed out thinking that I HAD to do everything RIGHT NOW. My view of life unfolding was different. I was at ease and going as a river. And the experience was so much more enjoyable!
I was hoping that after returning home from the retreat my addiction to sugar would be broken a little bit, my sleeping and eating patterns would be more regulated, and I wouldn’t be as hooked on netflix at night. Out of the 4 I’m currently at 2 and 2. One one hand my sugar cravings are greatly reduced and I am eating 3 meals a day, mindful of paying attention to the signs of needing to eat. On the other hand my sleep schedule is off balance once again and I am not getting enough rest and I am gradually reuniting with netflix at night to help distract me from my physical pains and exhaustion. Life is about balance. Getting entirely rid of sugar or netflix is not the answer – cultivating a balance is where we as a collective find a path of joy and ease. And it will not happen overnight. The balance comes from teeter tottering back and forth between the left and right side of the middle path.